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Fostering Student and ‘Ohana Engagement | Co-Creating Learning Goals and Outcomes in Papa ʻElua

Updated: Feb 5

By Kumu Kahoane Aiona and

Kumu Smith Hawila “Kaleo” Kaleohano, IV

Kumu in Papa ʻElua describe their year-long project to meaningfully engage ʻohana in their child’s educational journey.


During the Fall semester of the 2022-2023 school year, establishing an authentic culture of trust and transparency between Kumu, haumāna, and ‘ohana were at the forefront of our practice and served as a foundation of ‘ohana engagement in papa ‘elua. This foundation allowed for Kumu, haumāna, and ‘ohana to co-create personalized learning goals in November 2022 and see them through to the Spring 2023 semester. The scope of our project included: 1) co-creating personalized learning goals with haumāna and parents, 2) personalizing students’ learning projects, and 3) shifting to a student-led hō‘ike style conference with ‘ohana. We share an abridged version of the work we started a couple of years ago to the Spring 2023 semester as papa ʻelua Kumu.

Relevance with Ho‘omana a Mana

Papa ʻelua is moving away from a compliance-based mindset of ‘ohana engagement. Rather, our kauhale is paving the way for ‘ohana to have a voice and active kuleana, embrace their responsibility as mākua, and rely on their experiences, skills, and strengths to help their learners grow. We believe that these attitudes of engagement live within every ‘ohana member and can be nurtured through sharing of knowledge and specialized skills or talents, and allows mo‘okū‘auhau to be present. Therefore, we interpreted the Kuanaʻike Mindset of Hoʻomana a Mana as: To empower and lead ‘ohana to take action within their role that supports the learning and success of their haumāna. This Mindset offers a lens to our project. 

ʻŌiwi Edge Learning & Teaching Expectations

Our Alaukawai 0014 project was built upon the foundation set in Fall 2022 and was preceded by the work in Alaukawai 0012 of school year 2021-2022. The following Expectation continues to guide our efforts as we actively engage ʻohana in our classrooms: Kauhale learning is reflective of ʻohana relationships in that it engages multi-age, cross-content, and multi-generational teaching

‘Ōiwi Edge Kumu Competencies 

We identified the following ‘Ōiwi Edge Kumu Competency 7: Build strong relationships (e.g., Akua, ʻāina, peers, haumāna, ʻohana, and/or learning community members) that elevate and empower individual and collective success, as a focus for our work.

Kauhale papa ʻelua created authentic opportunities to strengthen pilina between haumāna, ʻohana, and kula. We developed the skills of each haumāna to become active facilitators in sharing their learning with their ʻohana. The overarching goal was to build stronger home-school relationships that empowered students in their learning.

Research Questions

Our primary research questions included:

  • How did papa ʻelua establish a foundation for ‘ohana engagement? 

  • What trends emerged from seeking ‘ohana input?


We share similar pedagogical philosophies and values along with several years of teaching experiences at the elementary grade-level. We have created curriculum and provided learning opportunities that reflect our service to indigenous Hawaiian learners. As teacher scholars, we both agree that an important component of indigenous learners is the involvement of ʻohana. We also believe that each student has their own unique goals and needs for success. For the purpose of this project, it is important to note that the learning goals developed solely within the papa ʻelua kauhale were distinct from the division-level personalized learning agreements (PLAs) for students identified during the September 2022 ‘Aha ‘Ikepili meetings. While six of our papa ʻelua haumāna were also identified as recipients of these division-level PLAs, all 40 of our papa ʻelua haumāna were involved in the co-creation of individualized papa ʻelua PLAs. Our personalized learning agreements will be referred to as “papa ʻelua PLAs.” 

Personalized Learning

Our study used strategies related to personalized learning that included co-creating a shared vision with second grade Kumu and ʻohana to align commitment toward a common purpose. The shared vision included developing and maintaining a culture—a set of beliefs and values—that drive ʻohana engagement re-design and change. The kauhale of learners were provided agency through voice and choice, collective decision-making, and shared accountability. 

‘Ohana Engagement

We defined ‘ohana engagement as activities and practices that included school-level directives and activities and practices that are unique to papa ʻelua. To actively engage families beyond the typical open house or field trip activities, we: held trimester conferences that mirrored traditional and non-traditional styles such as the Hōʻike: Keaukaha project; provided regular updates on keiki behavior; asked parents to co-create with their keiki learning goals that they could support; and invited them to spend a full day in papa ʻelua classes.

We included ‘ohana presence, feedback, and participation in activities as indicators of ‘ohana engagement. Figure 1 is the planning document of the activities designed to engage ʻohana, and the outcomes that resulted after each activity. It provides an outline of how learning goals were co-created with students and their families. For many of these activities, we offered participants the opportunity to provide feedback and information that would help us improve our project.

Figure 1

Fall 2022 to Spring 2023 ʻOhana Engagement Planning Document   




Aug. 2022

‘Ohana Pilina Breakfast

39/40 ‘ohana participated

Oct. 2022

Plan lā ‘ohana huaka‘i to Laehala


Oct. 2022

Provide learner folders & report cards to ‘ohana

Provided opportunity for ‘ohana and haumāna to see highlights of the work and progress

Nov. 2022

Hold trimester 1 conferences with both Kumu present

‘Ohana and student tasked with co-creating a goal to be refined and implemented January 2023

Dec. 2022- Jan. 2023

Haumāna revise & refine their personalized learning goal 

Haumāna create and assemble their goal folder used to track their data and progression toward their goal  

Jan. 2023- March 2023

Haumāna provide goal folders & tracking methods

‘Ohana and haumāna complete a mid-point check in. Both ‘ohana and haumāna reflect on progress

Feb. 2023

Facilitate “A Day in the Life of Papa ʻElua”

ʻOhana invited to spend the entire day at school with their keiki  

March 2023

Conclude student data collection period

Final participation data compiled by papa ʻelua Kumu 

May 2023

Collect end-of-year ʻohana data

Data regarding ʻohana engagement is collected and compiled by the papa ʻelua kauhale Kumu

An Example of the Data We Collected

Using Google forms, we surveyed parents about the various ʻohana engagement activities facilitated throughout the year. For example, we asked if they valued activities such as attending the conferences; co-creating learning plans with their keiki; participating in the Papa ʻElua Day in the Life event; receiving their child’s lawena updates; and having opportunities to offer input and insights about their keiki’s development. We also collected rich data through focus groups.

Focus Groups

Qualitative data was gathered with help from Noah Gomes, Aolani Kailihou, and Nikki Iwata during Spring 2023. One ‘ohana member from each student’s family was invited to participate in a feedback session after their Papa ʻElua Day in the Life event concluded. Papa ʻelua Kumu were not present during the feedback sessions in the hopes of creating an environment where mana‘o could be shared freely. An example of some of the questions included:

To what extent do you feel informed by Kumu of your keiki’s progress and learning?
What are one or two ways Kumu can improve on keeping you informed of your keiki’s progress and learning?
To what extent do you feel informed of how your keiki is doing socially and emotionally at school?
What are some other ways for Kumu to help ʻohana become a part of their keiki’s learning and growth at school?

Select Findings

Overall, survey data was positive, with all parents responding that they valued the ʻohana engagement activities and opportunities to co-create their keiki’s learning goals. They also valued both traditional and non-traditional parent-keiki-Kumu conferences and receiving regular lawena updates. Parents especially appreciated the A Day in the Life of Papa ʻElua experience. The following are responses from the open-ended questions of the Google survey:

“My highlight this year was “A Day in the Life of Papa ʻElua” and the hoike style conference. The way the student lead the conference was very impressive! Mahalo!”
“I learned that ʻohana engagement is a 2-way street. It’s not only about going on huakaʻi and bringing snacks, which we as ʻohana often can and love to do. I realized that it’s about checking planners every night. It’s about asking my keiki the right questions about their day. It’s about supporting my keiki to be an independent learner and holding them accountable (thank you, Kumu Kaleo). Mahalo for helping me begin to learn and understand what it means when my child is learning in engaging ways about who they are, learning about us as their ʻohana and their community—all as an ʻŌiwi learner. I wish I had these experiences when I was younger. Kamehameha Schools is very fortunate to have you!”
“Mahalo for offering parent involvement with several opportunities throughout the year. We hope this can continue and be applied to all grades in K-5.”

Focus group data was further distilled and themed resulting in the following categories:

  • Overall Communication: ‘Ohana felt that they were not receiving regular communication about the social and emotional well-being of their keiki but were well informed about their child’s academic progress.

  • Keiki Social and Emotional Well-Being: ʻOhana felt that grade-level Kumu were invested in their keiki’s social emotional needs.

  • Keiki Academic Achievement: ‘Ohana felt that keiki learning was engaging and relevant to the keiki, their community, and their ‘ohana.

  • Overall Kumu Performance: ‘Ohana felt satisfied with overall grade-level Kumu performance including team teaching.

Reflection and Potential Opportunities

Findings from this portion of the larger study helped us to consider growth in our practices as well as confirmed elements that really mattered in our work. For example, developing and maintaining pilina amongst all parties will continue to be a core element, and co-creating learning goals as a function of engagement is highly valued and will be refined. We also noted areas for growth such as how we message, communicate, and interact matters and does not go unnoticed by ʻohana. Having a stronger alignment of purpose with practice contributes to a better shared vision and is another area for improvement.


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